A modern girl

By Mario Vargas Llosa


I have been at the University all day, attending my law classes, and then at the library, studying and preparing for exams. Now I am going to go home, take a cold shower, change my clothes and go to work. I work at a nightclub near the Plaza de Armas, where a lot of tourists come. I sing with a local band, dressed like an Inca princess. We perform folklore things like huaynitos and pasillos, even some waltzes, in Quechua and Spanish. I don’t have a very good voice, but I have a certain style. Actually, I’ve kept my job at the club because I know a lot of English—I learned it at a language school, and some day I hope to learn French, too—and I can introduce the numbers in the show in English for the tourists who make up the greatest part of the audience. I also take them out on the floor and teach them how to dance the fast steps and figures of the huaynito. I’ll never be a great star—I’m not interested in that—but I’m friendly, cheerful, enthusiastic, and that’s why I think I’ll be able to hang onto my job there until I fulfill my dream: to graduate as a lawyer.


My grandfather was a lawyer, and my father, too, and since I’m the only child it’s up to me to continue the family tradition. That’s no burden at all. Ever since I could think, my dream has been to study law and have my own office and defend those who are beaten down and abused, to help the poor and the helpless who are cheated, swindled, and mistreated because they don’t know their rights and don’t know how to defend themselves. To me, that is what the diploma represents: a weapon for using peaceful means to insure that justice prevails.


My family has lived in Cuzco forever, and I’m proud of having been born in a city in which every stone, every wall, oozes centuries of history. Underneath the widespread poverty in Cuzco that always makes such an impression on tourists breathes a desire for justice that has manifest itself many times over the course of its long history: in its rebellious chieftains, in its eloquent politicians and republican poets, in its fighters for social justice. I am as proud of this tradition as I am for the Inca temples and palaces and the Colonial churches and historic buildings that attract those throngs of tourists.


One of the injustices that must be corrected is the prejudice still in sway regarding the emancipation of women. It is true that things are beginning to change, but there are still fathers and brothers and husbands who believe we women are inferior creatures and that we must be protected and ordered about as if we were unable to reason and decide for ourselves what is best for us. That is the great battle that we must win immediately! Discrimination against women. In the Law School, where there are more women students than men, we have set up a counseling service for Cuzco women who are abused at home or where they work. And we have won some important victories. There is nothing that cannot be achieved with conviction, hard work, and will.